A new app from researchers at Drexel University can spot what makes an author’s writing unique and replace it with a more generic style.
Called Anonymouth, the program works by looking for “stylistic markers” like commonly used words, punctuation, and sentence rhythm.
The idea behind it is that as Internet privacy becomes more of an issue and technology allows even greater levels of tracking individuals, people will want a way to interact with others online and still retain some level of anonymity.
If you think that just by using a weird account name and keeping it disconnected from your social media accounts keeps you anonymous, you’re wrong.
In a study looking at several hundred anonymous Internet forum users, the app was able to identify 80 per cent of the users by simply looking at their posts.
In a presentation the researchers gave on their work, they said that the tool even works when looking at writing from completely different contexts:
“Function words are very specific to the writer. Even if you are writing a thesis, you’ll probably use the same function words in chat messages.”
The New Republic’s Laura Bennett asked the team to give examples of what their software can do by removing the style from famous works. Here’s an unedited quote from The King James Bible:
1:6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the watersfrom the waters.
1:7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
Here’s the quote after being run through Anonymouth:
1:6 He then said for waters to divide to create a firmament.
1:7 God then created a firmament, and divided waters which were it from waters which were above it: and it happened.